Thanks to Dave Bangs for this report on the protest in Worthing which I mentioned last week.
STOP THE CISSBURY SELL-OFF PRESS RELEASE SATURDAY NOVEMBER 14
HUNDREDS of residents have protested in Worthing against controversial council plans to sell off downland next to Cissbury Ring.
250 to 300 people gathered at the Coombe Rise car park in Findon Valley last Saturday November 14th for a rally staged by campaign group Stop the Cissbury Sell-Off (SCSO).
They then filed up on to the land itself, waving banners and placards, and let off distress flares to draw attention to the threat.
Some then continued for a four-mile guided walk across the council’s for-sale land and the National Trust’s Cissbury Ring, despite intermittent squalls of gale force wind and lashing rain. The walk passed over one for-sale council-owned field next to Cissbury Ring which has had a statutory right of access for the last 5 years, but has never been opened to the public, as the law required it to be. This was the first time the public have ever properly used this land.
The event was hailed as a huge success by SCSO, which has already forced Worthing Borough Council to look again at its plans.
After the group alerted the public to the proposals, the local authority last week announced a review of its decision to sell agricultural land at Mount Carvey and Tenants Hill.
But speakers Dave Bangs and Chris Hare from SCSO, along with Kate Ashbrook from the Open Spaces Society, told the rally that this was not enough. Dave Bangs said: "The council failed to appreciate the public’s wish for this Downland to remain in council hands. We urge everyone to write to Cllr Steve Waight, the Worthing Council Cabinet Member for Resources, who will conduct the review, and express their opposition to any sales of Worthing council downland”.
Speakers urged Worthing council not only to definitively withdraw plans for the sale, but to work with bodies like the coming National Park authority and the National Trust to preserve and enhance the much-loved areas and to take advantage of available environmental funding.
Said SCSO spokesman Trevor Hodgson: "There was a very strong feeling amongst everyone there that we cannot assume the council will do the right thing, despite the massive turnout today.
"The speakers stressed today that it is important for everyone who cares about the future of this land to remain vigilant in the weeks and months ahead.
"There are now a huge number of people actively involved in this campaign and the council can be assured that we are not going away.
"We will fight on until we are completely satisfied that this crucial piece of Worthing 's environmental and historical heritage is fully protected and secure for generations to come."
Mr Hodgson added that there had been particular disbelief among residents that Worthing council was trying to sell off its downland at a time when the South Downs National Park was being given the official green light in recognition of the importance of this unique English landscape.
Further information on the campaign, including maps of the land in question, can be found on the SCSO website at www.scso.co.uk. To contact the group email email@example.com
SCSO: Media contact. Trevor Hodgson. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: 07968 042646